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HURLING: OLLIE: I DON'T KNOW IF I CAN TAKE IT AGAIN.

Byline: ORLA BANNON

OLIVER Collins admits Derry hurlers went into Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final against Galway believing they were better than they were.

After losing by just six points to Offaly last year the Oak Leafers were confident the gulf in class was closing, but now Collins says he fears for the future of Ulster hurling after the 21-point landslide defeat.

The Lavey midfielder has been left demoralised and disillusioned by the experience and doesn't see any quick-fix solutions for northern teams heading to Croke Park.

"Maybe we went in with a false sense of security."I think we thought we were better than we were after the way we played against Offaly last year, but Galway's ball skills were much better than Offaly's.

"Now it looks like we're back to square one again.

"It's hard to know what positives we can take out of this.

"It was two steps back for Derry hurling."

The 29-year-old also revealed he may retire before the Oak Leafers return to championship action next year.

"Whether we can lift ourselves and bounce back next year remains to be seen.

"I'm not sure if I'll be around to see it anyway.

"I've been around a long time - this is my 11th year and it does get a bit monotonous.

"Some of the young fellas who came on as subs did well, maybe the time has come to pass the mantle onto them."

Sadly the bad old days of Ulster teams taking a hiding at Croke Park are back.

Nothing is likely to change in the near future, and Collins says that with only about six teams capable of winning the All-Ireland, more must be done for the weaker counties.

"Not enough is being done to help the weaker teams.

"Ulster hurling is the poor relation and Central Council have to look at that big time.

"There'll be a new league and championship structure in hurling next year - an open draw has been mentioned, but that might still give you only one game and doesn't benefit Ulster hurling.

"It might be better putting the likes of ourselves, Down, Antrim, Dublin and Laois into one section and see how that works."

Collins was also critical of Derry's preparations for the championship.

The Oak Leafers turned down a challenge match against Tipperary 10 days ago which, in hindsight, might have helped them adjust to the high tempo hurling of southern teams.

"Between January and May we put a lot of work in, but after that the club football and hurling championships were a big disruption because most of the hurlers play football for their clubs as well.

"We got a break of about a month and then we came back together for about the last six weeks or so.

"To be honest you don't win championship matches with six weeks preparation."

Collins scored 1-1 on Sunday, including a penalty, though grinned: "That's about all I done".

"From a personal point of view I'm very disappointed with my own performance.

"But any of the remaining teams will have to be wary of Galway.

"They're a well drilled team, very quick and very strong and you would have to be at your best to beat them., warned Collins."

CAPTION(S):

DUAL: Geoffrey McGonigle plays football with Dungiven; DECISION: Oliver Collins
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 31, 2001
Words:549
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